"History of Lincoln, Oneida, and Vilas Counties Wisconsin"

Compiled by George O.Jones, Norman S. McVean and Others. Printed in 1924 by H.C.Cooper. Jr. & Co., Minneapoli-Winona MN. ill. 787 pages. The first two hundred pages are history of the three counties, the remainder of the book is biographies.

CHAPTER XXIV: continued

Phelps.-This village is beautifully situated on the northeast shore of Big Twin Lake in the town of Phelps, or in Township 41 north of Range II east. It is about nine miles east of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, (ten by rail) from which a branch track runs to the village, the junction point being at Conover. Another means of communication is by way of County Highway "P." The founding of the village of Phelps is entirely due to the lumber industry, and it is one of the few towns now left in this region in which that industry is actively and prosperously carried on and is likely to be carried on for some years to come. The story of its origin has been told in newspaper form (Vilas County News) substantially as follows:

"In the early part of the year 1900 or 1901 several men of means, and with an idea of a typical location for a village for permancy, left Conover by stage for Lakota resort on the west shore of Big Twin. From the resort a launch was se- cured and a tour of the lake made, their intention being the location of a sawmill, then a village, and finally in the years to come a permanent home for the man of leisure and the man who seeks labor. Their first stop was at the mouth of the trout stream now running between the sawmill and the planing-mill property. This was the starting-point of the now progressive village of Phelps.

" Later on, after timber was secured, and the front shore of the lake platted for stores and mill buildings, a railroad was built in from Conover, ten miles distant. The village was then named Hackley after the Hackley-Phelps-Bonnell Company, who were its founders. Active operations in lumbering and logging began and in 1905 building south from the main store building began. A double store building, now occupied by McGregor's ice cream parlors, and the barber shop and post office, was erected across the street from the Company department store. A hotel and boarding-house were also erected, and a full crew established in the mill and chemical plants in the village.

William Phelps, one of the original proprietors, who, when the Company started, was superintendent of the store and general manager of most things, died in or about the year 1912, and his place in the concern was taken by his son, Charles. The officers of the company are now: Dudley E. Waters, president; C. A. Phelps, vice president; C. M. Christiansen, vice president and general manager; and Charles H. Bender, secretary and treasurer. Several years ago, after the village had been well established, its name was changed to Phelps and has so remained. It has grown from a straggling hamlet into a neat village of several hundred souls, has kept advancing all these years and is firmly established as a coming business center. It has one of the largest and most complete sawmills in the state; also a chemical plant where wood alcohol, acetate of lime, charcoal and other by products are manufactured, Both are owned and operated by the Hackley-Phelps-Bonnen Company, which also operates an electric plant furnishing light to the village. In addition it operates miles of its own logging railroad. Its chemical wood- working operations are constantly employing large forces of wood cutters, as the plant requires 18,000 cords of four-foot wood annually, which must be dry. This affords an opportunity for all settlers to make good wages while clearing their farms and has been a most important factor in the community's agricultural progress. As soon as sufficient crops are produced to warrant warehouses and daily markets, local funds will be available for the purpose. The town of Phelps is the largest in population of any in Vilas County and contains the three largest farm districts. It was largely settled by Finns, about 100 families having been brought here between 1908 and 1910 by John Jaaska and K. P. Nyberd.

One of the important institutions of the village is the State Bank of Phelps, established in 1921, which has a remarkable record for community upbuilding. Its officers look after the interests of their territory and further every move for advancement. The bank was capitalized at $25,000, and its resources (in May, 1923) were within a few cents of $189,746. It has a surplus of $5,000. C. M. Christiansen, vice president and general manager of the Hackley-Phelps-Bonnell Company, is the president of the bank, while the vice president is K. Martin Thompson, and the cashier Elmer A. Olson. The directors are the above officers with the addition of Charles E. Hazen and Nestor Johnson.

The Hackely-Phelps-Bonnell Company operate one of the largest and most complete stores in northern Wisconsin, where the local resident can find everything for the table, the family -and the home-, also outing supplies for campers, sportsmen and tourists. This store is managed by Hugh Hess. There is also a choice meat market with a two-car cooler storage capacity. Here one may see a wonderful display of wild birds, and also one of fish, mounted. MtGregor's ice cream parlor is an up--to-date establishment serving the best quality of ice cream and candy; above the store are club rooms and a bowling alley is once of the latest attractions. The village has a parade and concert band of 26 pieces, which was organized in 1918 and has a good band stand. The postmaster of Phelps is Ernest W. Zimmerman.

The old or former schoolhouse of the village was a two-story frame building with four rooms, the course including ten grades, which means practically two years of high school studies. Besides the real school building, the town hall was also used for high school purposes. Two months before the close of school for the term ending May 31, 1923, removal was made into a new and 'substantial building of tile and cement stucco, with concrete basement, which was erected at a cost of $,50,000 and which is devoted to the purposes of a joint grade and high school. Dedication services were held on Sunday, May 6, Pastor 0. W. Neale, of the Stevens Point Normal School, being the speaker on the occasion. It is from the latter school that a number of the teachers for both the village and rural schools have been secured. The rural schools include a two-department school which was first occupied in October, 1922; also a two-room frame school building with cement foundation, six miles east of Phelps, and five other rural schools that the Phelps board is responsible for. In the Phelps village school there are four teachers in the grades and two in the high school, the country schools having but one teacher each except the two department school. Not every school has eight grades, as in some cases there are not pupils enough for all of them.

A Congregational church was built in Phelps about 1906 to 1908, which burned down in February, 1919. Its place was taken by the present building, which was put up as soon as the people knew they were going to have a regular pastor. That pastor is the Rev. 0. C. Chapin, who, besides his work in Phelps, conducts services in the Twin Lake school, and at State Line and Watersmeet. Those in the Twin Lake school are held every Sunday afternoon and on Wednesday evening in summer, and those at State Line in t]@e schoolhouse every other Sunday. The Phelps congregation is a small one, the people coming and going. Each congregation mentioned has a Ladies' Aid Society and each also has a Sunday school.

There are a few Lutherans in Phelps but they have no services of their own, but instead attend the Congregational Church. The Catholics at Phelps are visited by the priest from Eagle River. Other agencies are also in operation here or in the vicinity looking towards improvement of one kind or another. There are some ten or a dozen summer resorts, lying at a distance of from one and a half to six miles, one being a boys' camp, besides the many others scattered throughout the county, and a Resort Owners' Association has been formed to improve conditions in that line of enterprise, this association is a strong one and is growing fast. There is also a Fish and Game Association, organized in the fall of 1922, each member on joining automatically becoming a deputy game warden.

A part of the village of Phelps is on high ground, and from many of the residences an extensive and beautiful view can be seen. It is not more than four miles from Lac Vieux Desert, elsewhere mentioned in this volume as the source of the Wisconsin River; and between that lake and Duck Lake on the Michigan side of the line is a part of the watershed separating the waters flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from those flowing into the St. Lawrence River. Rummeles is a station on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway in the town of Conover, two and a half miles north of Conover station and three and a half south of State Line.

Sayner.-The little'hamlet of Sayner, or Plum Lake, is situated in Section 32, Township 41 north of Range 8 east, or in the political town of Plum Lake. The real name of the village is Plum Lake, but the station, which is on a branch of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, is named Sayner and it is by the latter name that the place is usually known and also indicated on maps. It is 22 miles northwest of Eagle River and possesses the desirable conveniences of telegraph, telephone and express office. The surroundings are beautiful and picturesque and have proved very attractive to summer visitors. Half a mile to the north stretches the long expanse of Plum Lake, a fine inland body of water, surrounded by magnificent summer residences, while a short distance to the north and east lies a croup of other noted lakes including Star Lake, Razorback, Rice, Starrett and others. In fact this place is in the very heart of the lake country and the sportsmen, tourist and health-seeker finds here in super-abundance all that he has set out to find.

The name of Sayner is derived from Orrin W. Sayner, pioneer of this locality, who settled here in 1891, two years before any other settlers took up homes in the town. For the first two years Mr. Sayner was obliged to carry his supplies on foot from Eagle River. In 1894 the St. Paul road ran a track to this place and a station was built near Mr. Sayner's homestead. A post office was established in 1898 and Mr. Sayner was appointed postmaster. He served as such for 25 years, or until March, 1923, when he resigned. Until 1917 the office was kept at the resort which he established in 1892, and which was one of the first of its kind in this region, as it is today one of the finest. It includes a main lodge and ten well furnished cottages, located on the shores of Plum Lake, at one of the most beautiful spots to be found in the county, Mr. Sayner having from the first been careful to preserve the surrounding timber, which has a height of 120 to 150 feet.

Another attraction are the fine golf links, constructed by Herbert Warner of Sayner and Fred S. James of Chicago, the former furnishing the land and labor, including teams, and the latter the necessary funds. These links are so noted as to attract expert players from Chicago. There are several summer hotels in the vicinity and the village has two stores carrying all necessary supplies for the cornmunity. Chiefly through the efforts of Michael Froelich, hotel proprietor, a neat Catholic church was built here some time ago. Mr. Sayner was instrumental in having the town of Plum Lake set off from Arbor Vitae in December, 1910, and the first town meeting was held the first Tuesday in April (April 4), 1911, at the schoolhouse in the village.

Star Lake, in the town of PI= Lake, or in Section 14, Township 41 north of Range 8 east, is another noted point in the summer resort region. It is on the northeast shore of Star Lake, and on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, about four miles northeast of Sayner. To the north are Lakes Ballard, Irving and Laura, while south of Star Lake are Rice, Razorback and Plum Lakes. The ham- let is the immediate source of supplies for a number of neighboring resorts and there is a post office here, of which J. 0. Mykleby is postmaster. The public utility accommodations of telegraph, express and telephone are also to be found here. Star Lake is 17 miles northwest of Eagle River and 19 miles from Minocqua, which latter place is the banking point for the neighborhood, as is reached directly by the railroad. At one time there was a large up-to-date sawmill at Star Lake, owned by the Salsich-Wilson Lumber Co., who cut annually 50,000,000 feet of pine timber. During the sawmill activities Star Lake had about 600 inhabitants.

State Line is a small hamlet in Township 43 north of Range 10 east, and derives its name from the fact that it is on the line constituting the northern boundary between the states of Wisconsin and Michigan. It is 'also on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, which road has a branch track running from State Line to Mill Lake, a mile or so to the west. About 1878 Rudolph Otto came to State Line and built a saw mill which was one of the best single-rotary mills in northern Wisconsin. He operated it for many years or until his death. In 1895 Peter Latinate came to State Line, bought land and erected a store building, being subsequently engaged in mercantile business here until 1919, when he retired. In 1889- there was a Catholic mission here served by the pastor at Eagle River, who held occasional services attended by lumbermen and their families who were of that faith. A general store has been conducted in State Line for a number of years, the present proprietor being 0. C. Henderson, who bought it in 1920 from W. J. Hutchinson. There has also been a school at State Line for many years.

Trout Lake is a noted summer resort headquarters on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, 40 miles from Eagle River and 14 from Minocqua, which latter place is the nearest and most accessible banking point. There is a post office conducted by Enoch Blaisdell, who also conducts an auto livery business and sells ice cream and novelties, the other business interests of the place consisting of a grocery and those depending on the summer visitors. There are several resorts in the vicinity and Trout Lake itself is one of the finest bodies of water in Vilas County, presenting irresistible attractions for the angler and lover of outdoor life and the beauties of nature.

Winchester.-This village, an active lumbering center, is situated in the political town of the same name, which was set off from that of Presque Isle in May, 1921; or otherwise it may be described as being in Section 5, Township 43 north of Range 5 east. A branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, which leaves the main line at Mercer, in Iron County, runs east and northeast through Winchester and beyond to Winegar, another lumbering center, some nine miles distant. In this, the extreme northwest part of Vilas County, the timber has not yet been exhausted and will probably continue to keep the mills running for a number of years to come.

The community of Winchester, was started in 1902 by several individuals who soon organized into the Turtle Lake Company. Previous to this George Buck & Son had conducted a resort at Divide post office, on the southern shore of North Turtle Lake, or about half a mile east of the present village. They bad come to that locality from Manitowish by the stage road which ran from that place to the south end of South Turtle Lake. The Buck hotel was provided with a telephone, by which means Mr. Buck and his son were apprised of the coming of guests, whom they would meet and convey them to the resort in a launch.

The Turtle Lake Lumber Company remained inactive for several years after its organization. Then, about 1905, they built a small sawmill and began operating. In 1907 they built what is now their main sawmill, changing their original sawmill into a shingle mill. They also built a store and boarding-house and began logging on a fairly extensive scale in this vicinity. The post office was transferred from Divide to Winchester. The company has continued work here and now has about 140 men employed in the village and about 200 in the woods, and there is enough work in sight to last for four or five years. They have a complete logging outfit, including a number of logging cars and three locomotives, and cut about 15,000,000 feet per year, which is shipped to Wisconsin and Michigan markets. The present officers of the company are: Henry Idema, president; Heber W. Curtiss, vice president; George B. Daniels, secretary and treasurer; Edna M. Kinzie, assistant secretary, and Robert Duncan, manager.

The village, which is located on the bank of the narrow water thoroughfare connecting North and South Turtle Lakes, contains 55 houses in addition to a commu- nitv house for social purposes. It is lighted by electricity from a dynamo in the ,engine-house, and the domestic water supply is obtained from wells, the water for the mill being drawn from the lake. The school, established ten years ago, is attended by 80 pupils. There is occasional preaching at Winchester by itinerant ministers, the Methodist pastor at Minocqua holding services here on week nights once every two weeks.

Winchester has the most picturesque mill site in the lake region, and in the adjacent lakes there is good fishing. The residence portion of the village is on -elevated ground, south of the railway track and lumber plant. There are no signs of a primitive community, the dwellings being neat and substantial looking, while fences and good board sidewalks are everywhere visible. On the hill across from the station is a band stand, built some years ago for the local musical organization. The village can also boast of a baseball team.

Winegar.-That branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, about 20 miles in length, which runs east by north from Mercer, as it nears Winchester begins slightly to ascend, and the elevation continues to increase until the end of the branch is reached at Winegar in the town of Presque Isle. The village, like Winchester a creation of the lumber industry, stands on fairly high ground, which ascends gradually as one follows the main street up from the station. The mill plant lies beyond and to the left and is on a somewhat lower level.

Winegar lies in a picturesque country, the main features of which are its takes. Of these there are many in the vicinity. A straight line drawn from north to south one-half mile to the east of Winegar would pass through half a dozen, including State Line, Horsehead, Armour and Crab Lakes, the last mentioned, which is the farthest south in this group, being the largest. Beyond to the east and south- east are many others, while in the southwest and distant not more than a couple of miles is Presque Isle Lake, one of the most noted in the county for its scenes of natural beauty. Indeed beautiful scenery may be found around all these lakes, and on Presque Isle River, and in the summer the region is much frequented by tourists and other pleasure seekers. Winegar was originally named Fosterville, the village having been started by J. J. Foster, who in 1905, when the site and the surrounding territory were covered with timber, came from Greenville, Michigan, built a sawmill and planing-mill here and began logging. He was then president of the Vilas County Lumber Company, which is still doing business under the same name, though under other management. Some change proved necessary, as Mr. Foster failed to make the -enterprise successful and dropped out of it in 1910. William S. Winegar, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was then engaged to handle and superintend the business. Mr. Winegar was a man of abundant energy who knew just how to do things and who has kept on doing them, and the result of his labors may be seen in the present plant and village, presenting one of the most active industrial scenes in Vilas County. He renamed the village Winegar, an appropriate act since it is the result of his own successful work. He has increased the capacity of the lumber plant 50 per cent and has been the moving power and leading spirit in practically everything that makes up the village today.

Aside from the mills the most important features of the place are the large -company store managed by H. E. Daily, who is assistant to Mr. Winegar, and the fine hotel or boarding-house, which provides an excellent table. There are also about 80 dwelling-houses, painted mostly in green and white; also two churches, but no local pastor, religious services being held more or less frequently by itinerant ministers of different denominations. Postal, railway, telegraph, express and telephone conveniences are a part of the local equipment, while there is a good hall for meetings and a moving-picture theatre.

The present officers of the Vilas County Lumber Company are: William Bonifas, of Escanaba, Mich., president; Frank Gibson, of Greenville, Mich., vice president; Henry Idema, treasurer; and James A. Gorman, of Chicago, secretary. Mr. Gorman is also vice president of the Winegar-Gorman Lumber Company of Chicago. About 350 men are employed in the woods and mills, the company having three camps with a distance of three to eight miles from the village.

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